Sunday, September 22, 2013

The LBJ Presidential Library Gets Personal, A Confession

Today, Team Dave's walked to the Lyndon Baines Johnson Presidential Library, and I should be telling you about what an educational experience it was, which I will tell you. It was just educational in a way that I hadn't anticipated.

First of all, please allow me to set the stage: It's fall! Thank God! Yesterday was the first day we've been able to open the doors and windows for a good portion of the morning, and last night, James and I got out to take a walk and to enjoy the tailgating craziness of the UT home game.

When I had suggested that we take a walk, I was thinking of the houses around here, and a little later at night. But James wanted to check out the action near campus, and I was game. I hadn't prepared to go down there, and I wasn't dressed for a party. I had on a pair of old capris and a sleeveless sweater.

Go... um... cow thingies?

There is a uniform for the games. It, of course, includes UT orange, either as a T-shirt or jersey, or just the color itself. Most girls wore either a fitted UT shirt with short jean shorts or short orange dresses. And, God help me, as I walked behind those strikingly-similarly-dressed young women: mid-back length razor-cuts, orange dresses, orange fake tan, cowboy boots, radiating youth and vitality and a self-possessed nonchalance about their own attractiveness, I felt... well, lots of things. Frumpy. Old. Drab. Invisible.

And you wouldn't like me when I'm invisible.

Let me make this clear: My husband is amazing to me. He lets me know that he loves me and desires me, and he is better to me than I have a right to be treated, much better than any way I could ever have dreamed being cherished by a man ever. I'm sorry to tell you that; I know he resents my ruining his reputation this way. But I want everyone to understand that this is all inside of my head.

My response to all of this is very competitive. So this morning, when I got up, I dressed for church knowing that we would be walking to the LBJ Library. And I included in my wardrobe choice some beautiful black heels I've had for years. They're very comfortable. I knew that my feet might be a bit tender on the walk home, but it would be worth it. I felt cute. I felt put together. I felt like I could hold my own against those up-and-comers for my husband's attention.

So we walked. A good mile. And my feet were already tender.

But, dang, I looked cute.

Today is Austin Museum Day, when there are dozens of museums offering free admission. Maybe next year, we'll go to the Central Fire Station, which is only open on San Jacincto day in April and today. I've wanted to visit the Presidential Library ever since we moved to the Nuthaus in April, so this was an opportune day. Absolutely gorgeous.

One item detailed in Johnson's "Legacy of Liberty" was "Gun Control." The museum gave the impression that LBJ was a very compassionate, caring man. However, there were many items he enacted as part of the "Great Society" that the Libertarian in me cringed against. I loved how committed he was to racial equality. I loved how seriously he took ending the Vietnam war, seriously enough not to run for President for a second full term. 

Daphne wanted us to see the electronic table on the 4th floor, in which we could interact with many of the programs Johnson had started or strengthened. One of the entries was about the Arts. There was a question we could answer that asked, paraphrasing, "Government funds scientific projects at a rate of 3-to-1 compared to its funding of the arts. Do you think that this is an acceptable ratio?" In the study of logic, this is what we call a "loaded question." 

But I digress.

The Library is interesting and beautiful in a cool, stark manner. "Unadorned" is how the library's website describes the angular building with no real decoration. It is massive in size, inside and out.

The most interesting thing I noticed and subsequently learned was about the Oval Office.

It is difficult to see in this picture, but above the taller door, there is what looks like bunch of sticks bundled together. I knew that wasn't a random addition, so I came home and researched it. That's called "fasces," which, in Latin, means "bundle." Originating in early Rome, it was a bundle of bound wooden rods, sometimes with an ax-head protruding from it, symbolizing a magistrate's power and jurisdiction. The many rods symbolize strength through unity: one rod might be easily broken.These do not contain an ax blade, perhaps because in Roman times, the ax was removed when a fasces entered a city, symbolizing the rights of citizens against arbitrary government power. Now you know.

The video and artifacts on family life in the White House was interesting, especially to someone as entrenched in domesticity as I am. 

Lady Bird's office; much more cheery than her husband's.

Check out the view from her office window!

The LBJ Library is opened from 9-5 every day except Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year, and they used not to charge admission, but realized that to keep things shiny, they needed to. 12 and under, active military, UT students and staff, and Friends of LBJ Library are free; adults are $8; seniors $5; and students $3.

Might I suggest the $45 family membership? It includes admission to all thirteen Presidential libraries (before you get too excited, Richard Nixon has two; and Gerald Ford's library is located in a different town than his museum... that's free info, people)! For us Texans, we have three!

Then, it was time to walk back home.

Notice that I'm carrying my shows? I was in a great deal of owie at this point.
We got down past the stadium before I started feeling a tendon in my right foot telling me to stop. I looked and had blistered and opened both my big toe and the ball of my right foot, and raised a blister on the pad of my left foot. More than sore or tender, I was damaging my foot.

So James, who was already running late to an event, walked nearly a mile back home, got the car, and came back for me and Daphne, who was keeping me company. Not only this, he'd brought me cushiony shoes and had brought Daphne a jug of cold water.

I was humbled to the point of humiliation. I was so worried about looking pretty -- not my personal best, but better than anyone else in this town, which is something I really can't hope to accomplish -- so my husband's eye would stay on me, but I already have this man who is willing to love and serve me graciously, even when I'm being a complete idiot.

On the ride home, I apologized to Daphne and to James. I would have loved to walk across campus together. It's really pretty this time of year. 

See? I got to enjoy this beautiful view for 20 minutes or so while James walked home to retrieve my chariot.

"Next time, young lady, wear some sensible shoes!!"

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